Why was I even bothering the countdown to Christmas, watching the children open a little window each day on the Advent calendar we had since who knows when? The edges of the green felt were frayed, the diminutive windows ragged and dirty where many hands over the years had opened them in sweet anticipation of what they would find inside this year. My mom had had the same kind of calendar when I was growing up, and, I, being a stickler for tradition copied her pattern to make one for my family. I made it when Todd and I were first married, relishing in his joy when he marveled over my finished product. He dubbed it the “Countdown to Christmas Project.” It stuck.
Each year Todd excitedly pulls ‘the project’ out of it’s worn paper sack and puts the notes revealing clues behind each window for our four children to find hidden treasures around the house. The “Christmas Treasure Hunt” is a bane and a blessing. A bane, because sometimes the noise caused by four shrieking children, seeking to find prizes can wear on my nerves, causing them to be as frayed and threadbare as the now fifteen year old “CTCP” as it has fondly come to be known. A blessing, because I derive joy from seeing my children so giddy with excitement; from the usually calm, cool and collected fourteen year old, to the highly enthusiastic six year old.
This year there is no zest in my heart for this tradition. I think it all went down the drain when I took a shower this morning. I want the joy and enthusiasm the Christmas season used to bring for me back in my heart, but I just can’t muster the courage to even fake it. I know what the season is all about – Jesus, but there is just no thrill there this year.
“Mommy, why are you so sad?” Tricia, my eight-year-old looked at me, her forehead furrowed in a frown.
Deciding to be honest, I told my daughter the truth. “Oh sweetie, I just can’t get excited for Christmas this year.”
“But why not? It’s Jesus’ birthday! Did I do something to make you sad?”
“Oh, Trissy, no. No, sweetheart. It’s not your fault I’m sad. I don’t know why I’m this way… maybe you could pray for mommy.”
“Sure!” She took my hand in her small, delicate ones. “Jesus, Mommy is sad and she can’t get very happy about Christmas this year. Would you please do something to make her heart feel better? Thanks, Jesus! Amen.”
“Amen,” I said as tears slid down my cheeks.
Over the next few days, my heart began to thaw, the hard shell of ice around it melting a little more each day as I reflected on the Gift of Christmas. I began to take time to read my Bible again, something I had let slip in the ‘busyness’ of my days. My frayed nerves began to heal and I no longer considered the opening of a new window each day on the CTCP as a bane, but saw it as the blessing it really was as my children worked together to find each treasure. Seeing them come together in unity made my heart do a tap dance of joy.
The morning of Christmas Eve each of the children seemed secretive. I wondered what they were up to, but each time I asked they just smiled and said, “You’ll see.”
I was so busy with baking and cooking for the next day, I didn’t notice that they hadn’t opened the window for that day.
That night at dinner, the children told me I needed to open the window for the day. I looked at them with surprise and was about to protest, but looking into each of their faces, I couldn’t bear to disappoint.
The tiny note inside told me to go find the hidden treasure in the living room, with detailed clues.
Tucked between the branches of the Christmas tree was a package wrapped in shimmering red paper. I unwrapped it to find a beautiful journal. I opened the cover and saw “Prayers for Mommy” written on the first page. The pages were filled with the prayers of my children, from the day Tricia had asked me why I was sad, through that morning.
Wonder filled my heart as I realized the tradition of the CTCP had come back to me – and it was because my children had prayed.
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